Creaky Joints

Babson Professors Stephen Spinelli and Natalie Taylor, Case Directors

Carl Hedberg, Case Writer

Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship

© Babson College, 2007.


Seth Ginsberg was 13 when he was diagnosed with juvenile-onset spondyloarthritis, a childhood rheumatic disease that causes pain and inflammation in the joints in the lower part of the body, for example, the pelvis, hips, knees and ankles. This awful affliction dominated his young life, but the high-energy teen wasn’t about to take his chronic illness lying down:

"When I was about 14, I got out the phone book, called up the Arthritis Foundation and said, ‘I have arthritis, and I want to help.’ That was my introduction to the world of advocacy, and of reaching out to other people. I really connected with it and became very active. I was quickly promoted from a volunteer, to a patient advocate, to a board member, to a national spokesman."

Within a couple of years, Seth was a nationally recognized, traveling speaker on behalf of the Foundation. He addressed their national staff meetings, their largest donor gatherings, hospital groups, parents of kids with the disease, and the like. All the while, he was listening and learning about innovative treatments, and promising new drugs in the pharmaceutical research and development pipeline.

In 1999, as a freshman at Babson College, Seth had an early morning inspiration to develop Creaky Joints, and online community for people affected directly or tangentially by arthritis. He partnered with Lou Tharp, age 50, a friend and mentor from back home in New York They followed their instincts—and their commitment to make a difference in the lives of individuals living with chronic illness. Soon, they were holding lively, empowering seminars and workshops all over the country and a few in Europe—sponsored by pharmaceutical companies aiming to communicate and connect with prospective patients. Despite the popularity of their programs, something felt wrong; like they were operating at far less than their full potential.

In 2006, the partners took a year off to rethink their entire business model in 2006. When they emerged, they were seeking $10 million to fund a far-reaching plan for multimedia events that they were sure would revolutionize the patient-physician-drug company dynamic—as well as deliver their message of hope and inspiration on a mass scale.

Teaching Objective: To present an example of an undergraduate business student embarking on a journey to build a business that will reach and improve the lives of individuals with chronic illness.

Key Words: Career choices, Perseverance and focus, Pharmaceuticals, Prescription drug marketing, Opportunity recognition, Seminar businesses, 501 (c) (3) Non Profit Organizations ,Grant funding, Venture funding, Partnerships, Growth strategies


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Teaching Notes

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